David Montgomery has told JPI Media staff of his plan to decentralise the company and take a step away from what he described as the “one-size-fits-all approach” of its rivals.
Former Local World boss Montgomery announced on New Year’s Eve his investment vehicle National World had bought Scotsman and Yorkshire Post owner JPI Media for £10.2m – a fraction of its former worth.
Montgomery (pictured) told staff in a Monday morning email that the company would be “restored as a local publishing business, locally managed with clear plans to grow the business by implementing a modern operating model”.
“The most important component of that is our intention to better serve the communities that make up our audience and the local businesses on which their livelihoods depend,” he said.
Montgomery called for staff to help “invigorate” their titles and “create a new operating model based on quality content and premium sales”.
Responsibility for JPI’s various titles is already being decentralised to their locally based editorial and commercial teams, described as the “beating heart” of the company.
They will be charged with spearheading a drive to publish bespoke localised content that appeals to local advertisers with “a journalistic formula that replaces irrelevant or clickbait stories with exclusive content to enhance local lives”.
“National World believes that geographical and creative diversity overseen by local management will better distinguish our products, in both print and online and in video and on mobile,” Montgomery told staff.
“This strategy stands out from the current trend of media businesses pursuing a one-size-fits-all approach.”
Montgomery will oversee content and digital development, he confirmed.
He is joined by Vijay Vaghela, who until two years ago was chief financial officer at Reach and will now oversee JPI’s finances, IT, legal and other support services.
Ex-Reach (then Trinity Mirror) chief operating officer Mark Hollinshead will oversee revenue.
Tindle chief executive Daniel Cammiade has been named a non-executive director.
In the short-term, Montgomery said, the focus will be ensuring the business is “appropriately structured and efficiently run to ensure we can overcome the challenges arising from the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing structural challenges facing print media.
“At the same time, we will enhance our digital footprint and revenue capabilities.”
National Union of Journalists general secretary Michelle Stanistreet welcomed the fact the deal had ended the “uncertainty that has hovered over the company’s future for some years”.
Stanistreet praised Montgomery’s commitment to growing the company and his acknowledgement of staff’s dedication and the “prestigious heritage” of their titles.
“This sale comes at a critical moment for the local news industry – the past year has underlined how vital the provision of relevant local news and journalism is in our communities, at a time when the sector is under enormous strain,” she said.
“We look forward to engaging with National World on its plans to reinvigorate a business that boasts a talented and committed team of journalists providing an essential public service in newsrooms across the UK. We will be seeking an early meeting with the new management team on behalf of NUJ chapels recognised across the group.”
JPI Media is the UK’s third-largest regional news group behind Reach and Newsquest and publishes more than 100 print and online titles in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
They include the Yorkshire Post, Scotsman, Belfast News Letter, Portsmouth News and Falkirk Herald.